Listencorp review image of long read memories by whettman chelmets

Long Read Memories

Whettman Chelmets


Liam Murphy

November 6, 2019

Tracks in this feature

Tracks in this release

The phrase “long read” to most people infers in-depth insight. One will often find long read stories in the newspaper…

The phrase “long read” to most people infers in-depth insight. One will often find long read stories in the newspaper detailing the intricacies of a political upheaval on foreign soil, or an artistic movement. Such subject matter requires an attentive reader and a painstakingly knowledgable writer. Therefore, integral to the phrase is the lack of ease with which something labelled as such is consumed and understood. It’s difficult to imagine a painstaking insight into a memory, but it is an incredibly effective metaphor. Most people remember the thin film of a situation or an event, the fleeting image being enough for them to recite to a friend or coworker. But when one digs deeper into the echoed halls of their own consciousness, they will often find that those remembrances are a lot more intricate and complex than they thought.

This is doubly true for Whettman Chelmets, the artist behind Long Read Memories, a work engineered to explore and therapeutically relive the incarceration of his brother decades ago. He invites us along as he walks through those events once again, providing not only an insight into his past, but an exploration of memory and tragedy as well.

We begin with “Superpredators”. The speech marks each side of the word indicate that the track itself may be an etymological study of the word or its usage. An elongated string is silenced by a large drum and in the silence left, an amalgamation of voices begin to sound. They are from no one overarching source, sounding like a collage of news clippings and found sound. A striking artificial string revolves violently every few seconds as the track grows. Mostly austere in tone, the string melody does grow into more optimistic sequences, lifting us slightly before banking and plunging back down. A powerful atmosphere is created from the outset, with Whettman teasing barely audible spoken samples that will become a mainstay on the album as a whole. But every part of the opening track has its own sentience, the samples are not the only parts that conjure up feelings of memory exploration. It is the textures and sounds as well that send us shooting down the dark riverboat ride.

Somebody Do Something begins with what sounds like great glacial cracking. That plosive sound you imagine when something deep in the icecap has come loose and pierced its surroundings. A robotic sound begins playing rhythmically, as we are also introduced to an environment that rises and falls as a filter passes through. All of a sudden, ethereal sound clambers through a glimmering hole and an impact brings silence. And again this happens. Definite feelings of anticipation are created. 

Whettman strides along in a hurried manner and we lose him in the throng of a new location. Uplifting music plays from some source far away before ebbing put swiftly. From there, it’s not long before we are sideswiped by pervasive and intense sound. The sound repeats, seemingly the noise brought by some impact and the aftermath of it. It appears either side of us as the songs structure struggles under the unannounced attack. The counterpointing of sparse sound and heavy consistent noise brings discomfort that the listener willingly endures, desperate for the scene and it’s meaning to reveal itself. A warm string brings tranquility for what feels like a second, and then we are struck. A deafening car horn grabs our attention only to be followed by the angry, pain-ridden screams of a man. The two are transfixed there, pushed up against the perspex window of sound. The scene feels so real, if not a tad grainy from the distortion. But then it judders heavily, the voice and the sound of the car skip and stall as if a printout of this horrible incident had become stuck and jammed the printer. The instance is immediately unforgettable, with Whettman orchestrating it so perfectly. It leaves the listener shaken, but completely in awe of the artist himself for presenting such a macabre situation. Shellshocked, the warm strings that follow do little to calm. They play a sequence of tragic minor notes. Spoken samples appear again, repeating incessantly, obscured by the ever proceeding hand of memory. There is a feeling of an aftermath created. One can make out words and characterise different voices slightly, but the presence of austere heartache and tragedy is apparent. After a while, that phrase is uttered: ‘the devil double crossed you’.

In the next two tracks, it is made clear that memories (or at least the presence of them in recorded sound) are physical entities that can be stretched, repeated and manipulated. Whettman stands them up alongside melodic and performative sounds that provide us with that dramatic haze that comes with rememberance. Farmers Chemical Plant sounds as if we are in the middle of a cold field watching cars pass metres away. A large vehicle backs up, possibly a waste collection service doing rounds of a nearby area. But the pulsing of the semi-melodic background noise towards the end places us in a strange, detached situation.

A kids voice repeats a phrase incessantly in Steps to the Old Courthouse. The same child layered on top of themselves again and again. Like a dream, our surroundings seem fairly naturalistic, but look for too long and you see inconsistencies and errors. A somnambulant synth runs through a calming sequence, bringing with it a dissonant whirring and more aggressively artificial, arpeggiating sounds. The naturalistic scene struggles against the tide of composed noise. With every shift in note, Whettman forces more surety behind the building music. Incredibly enough, the scene outlasts the panicked string sounds. Though we can now here that the memories are decimated into a pile of screwed up voices pitched out of any humane level of speaking.

Miller v. Alabama floats in, a ghost of a sound worms it’s way through to the listener. Low rumbling drives the song forward, almost sounding like muffled helicopter rotors, moving in a rhythmic fashion. Vestigial guitars screech and fall from the growing noise in the middle. Like a memory, the main aspect is shrouded in historical dust and corruption, but the lighter less important aspects on the periphery scream with clarity. Whettman’s guitar charts a course like a burning comet, it’s tail a halcyonic beam of light opening up the sounds hidden in darkness. Post-rock tonality combines with an ambient sensibility to create a heart-wrenching build.

Veneers of sound inch through the blanket of silence, almost fizzling out upon contact with the outside world as we enter Longread Memories Separated by Concrete. Whettman keeps his guitar strapped on, sending notes peeling through the melancholy landscape. Piano notes echo through the stereo field as well, as another cloud of ambivalent noise and strings grows. We hear the jingle of a never ending line of chains, like a prisoner forced to walk for eternity like some Sisyphus. We make our way through a destitute and derelict atmosphere. The sounds of death and pain are what the artist brings to the fore consistently. It feels desolate, because Whettman brings those feelings to life. The chain continues, being dragged more vigorously now, almost as if the chained being has been sucked into the black hole of sound that thunders ahead of us. We watch the silver loops of the imprisoned person slowly rise into the sky. A high-pitched screech disappears along with them.

Empty voices, a fizzling vessel spews Hollywood niceties as two people discuss Thanksgiving dinner. Whettman floats around the boundaries of the TV set, strings begin to rise and dive. The tone of them, nestled in a much more morose and mournful place than before. But uplifting nonetheless. That combination that can only come with the strange pain of nostalgia. A powerful yet existential murk that we must all trudge through at one time or another. In the burning string work and multi-faceted layers of sound, Whettman captures it. For a few seconds, the tendrils of the painful past slither over the TV screen we hear. News readings of Osama bin Laden interject, and an advertisement rock jingle begins. The strings do not conclude, instead the door to the past is merely shut for the time being.

A deep longing commands the nucleus of each of the tracks on this album. Without censorship and with friendly conveyance stripped away, Whettman Chelmets gives us a 40-minute taste of the anguish that he has endured nearly his whole life. The depths that each track dives to illustrates an incredibly incisive sense of mood and musicality. At points abrasive and at others calm and collected. By their very nature, memories are palimpsestic and unpredictable, the artist captures this in an unforgiving and existentially stimulating piece of work.

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